I went on a Trip: my Magic Mushroom Experience

At the age of sixteen I met God for the first time. As a child of left-wing intellectual and atheist parents, this was a memorable event in my world. Admittedly, this experience was triggered by a small dose of ‘Magic Mushrooms’ I had consumed during a camping trip with friends in the USA. I did not have expectations of what the psychogenic mushrooms would do for me beyond intensifying my perception (especially visually) in the way friends had reported from their trips. My trip turned out differently than I had expected. Not only did I experience an intense connection with all creation in the universe, but also had the feeling of having met an abstract version of God, that revealed itself to me as a felt sense of pure love. This event has profoundly shaped my understanding of the world and my trust in being connected to life in a profound and loving way.

The possibilities of psychedelics

Since this experience, and throughout my subsequent career as a psychologist, I have been interested in the possibilities of psychedelics and especially their use in Psychotherapy. After psychedelics were most regretably put on the black list of illegal substances in most countries in the 1960s and 1970s, they are now experiencing a long overdue renaissance. In the USA, substances such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms), MDMA (ecstasy), and ketamine (a strong tranquiliser with psychedelic properties) are now recognised as breakthrough therapies and are therefore accessible to systematic psychological and pharmacological research. The success rates in the treatment of chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorders, and fears of death associated with terminal diseases such as cancer, are so remarkable that the benefits of psychedelic substances can no longer be denied.

Getting ready for my trip

The more I learned about psychedelics, the more I became interested in another psychedelic experience. This time around, I chose a context that would provide me with a safe setting for my experience. I decided to attend a three and a half day workshop run by the British Psychedelic Society, that conducts professionally facilitated psychedelic workshops in Holland and has earned an excellent reputation.

The ceremony

Saturday lunch time, we readied ourselves for the ceremony (the psychedelic part of the retreat). Like children who still believe in Santa Claus, we gathered excitedly around the large dining table. The facilitators started handing out the packages of truffles that we had bought in the coffee shop. We each started pounding on one of the airtight packets of slightly moist truffles with a heavy object, in order to create a creamy paste. For the good wishes of each person to pass into each truffle package, we worked in an assembly line formation. Everyone worked on a truffle packet for a while and then pushed it on to the next person, so they could mould their energy and intention into the truffles.

The first act: Creation

For a large part of the 7-hour trip, I was completely immersed in ‘Mind’ — a sea of the most breath- taking images and colours. Everything was geometry, fractals, worlds unfolding, collapsing, enveloping me, channelling through me. There were ancient symbols and what felt like Hindu Gods — powerful, awe-inspiring and of unearthly beauty. There was form and formlessness. There was light and darkness.

The second act: Grief

During the next part of trip, I encountered all-encompassing and shattering grief. Again, it was not personal grief, but I was grieving for humanity: the holocaust, South Africa, Venezuela, a friend who was raped and, by grieving for her, I was grieving for all women who have ever been assaulted. The grief felt bottomless and I think I sobbed and howled for a long time and definitely drenched the trousers of the wonderful facilitator holding me during this period.

The third act: Love

When grief faded, there was love. In a vivid progression, all the people in my life I love passed by. I was overtaken with a sense of timeless connection, abundant love and deepest gratitude for having them in my life. It felt like a spider’s web of love was holding everything together, me included.

What remains

During the seven (!) hours of my trip everything developed so fast, so intensely and with such incomprehensible beauty that there was no time to deal with the fleeting moments of fear and darkness that also emerged. Life revealed itself as constantly ever-changing, volatile and beautiful. Visually, a sequence of the movie Dr. Strange is an amazingly accurate reference for my experience, naturally without Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch.

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